kaizen & other assorted process improvement + quality enhancement management nonsense from japan, ‘happiness at work’ – musings

October 29, 2022

This is a blast from the past – written by a dear friend, who circulated it in a CUG that we both belong to:

Talking of Continuous Improvement reminds me of a Kaizen Gemba-related session that was arranged at Bangalore by HP.

It was an opportunity to hear and learn from a very senior practitioner who worked with Imai-san himself at Toyota for many years. He was very nice and very generous, and knew his stuff beautifully.

In the same session, we had another speaker who talked about case studies in India. He chose the big one for detailing to us. Apparently at a construction site, they did an unobtrusive Time-And-Motion study, and discovered the reason for an arresting lack of productivity at one station.

My esteemed bearded colleague, sitting next to me and listening with rapt attention thus far, turned and said, “I hope he does not talk about toilets.”

This was an awesome giggle-bomb in the hushed silence of the auditorium. But then the speaker continued.

He said “We found that the problem was that when the workers wanted to go to answer nature’s calls, there was no nearby toilet. They had to climb two staircases down and then come back. Productive time was lost in this process! So we arranged a solution! We brought a portable toilet and installed it very near the station. The station immediately achieved high productivity levels.”

So esteemed bearded friend, not one to miss such a rewarding opportunity, said “Thank God the solution was not a set of plastic bags and rubber bands!”

Of course this immediately made us explode with laughter, but it had to be silent so as not to insult the distinguished visitor – sound carries well in the hush of Le Meridien’s big hall :)) So we shook in silence, bent over behind the chairs in front. We were right the back, thankfully.

But there was absolute no way to prevent people from hearing the choking noises and helpless laughter from the back, and everyone turned around to have a peek. It took 15 minutes or so for a break so that we could escape into the Le Meridien lobby.

I should tell you also, after the session, over coffee and those excellent biscuits that Le Meridien makes, Som circulated among us with his usual boundless energy and affection, and asked the cluster that included me and esteemed bearded friend, “How was it? We are lucky to have such useful inputs, right! So much to learn, I hope you learned something today, right? hain? hain?”

Esteemed bearded friend said “Som, I think there are indeed so many things. We should implement this whole mindset of continuous improvement in HP.” Som went away happy🙂

I think it is the single most satisfactory corporate session I have ever attended, and I have deep and lasting respect for Kaizen Gemba.


‘Quality’ & ‘Process improvement’ & ‘Capacity & Capability development’ are all the elite bullshitting cousins of the otherwise ignominious ‘Human Resources Management’ were the buzzwords of Crapporate Training sessions then, and may be even now. Of course I was made to attend a few of them, being dragged over to the meeting-halls, kicking & screaming. (but, must also admit that I had ‘fun’ in those time-wasters)

This happened in 2000 or thereabouts, I do not remember exactly when.

One of my startups had just gone belly-up and I did not have any money left in the Savings Bank. So I was ruefully looking for a suitable programmer/tech job (in products), and landed up in ‘Yahoo!’ for interviews. It was the most prominent ‘Search Engine’ company then, and their Engineering team in India was ‘supposedly’ good.

IIRC, its Office was on MG Road, Bangalore – and I tentatively entered the reception area. It was full of signs & festoons about ‘Quality’ because some ‘Celebration’ was going on about some ‘Process Improvement.’

Danger sign indeed!

Because, I had NEVER let the ‘Quality Assurance’wallahs and ‘CMM Auditors’ scum anywhere near my teams earlier; of course, my small, handpicked teams were the elite – and they were always the personification/materializations of good quality & very reasonable excellence. We did well without any need for bullshitting by the Quality & Process czars.

So, though I was getting agitated – I grit my teeth, bit my lips & bode my time, because I needed a job, even if it were for only a few months, but with some good engineering challenges/requirements.

There were three ‘tech’ rounds and I aced them – probably also because my interviewees were terribly below par. In other words, they had academic credentials but no great/real experience. Highly dispensable decorative fluff.

This was another danger signal.

But, I persisted. I was offered lunch at their cafeteria or something, but I refused to eat. Part of the reason for that refusal, was some premonition may be.

Post lunchtime, I was taken to some Senior Management guy (prior to meeting some HR honcho) who asked me about ‘Quality & Process Improvement’ practices in my ‘career.’ I said, I do not need them as some external agents and that they are time wasters and are mainly for bull-shitters, especially in ‘Software Development.’ And that, ‘Measuring some useless thing just because it is measurable, and not because it is useful’ is not for me. And that, ‘I do not subscribe to Metric-for-Metric’s-sake.’

He was of course taken aback but we slided over to other generic & stupid topics like ‘my 3 greatest successes and 3 greatest failures.’ I answered them curtly – and by the time I had almost decided that the place for totally mediocre and I should not waste anymore time on it.

Because, any place that puts so much bleddy stress on ‘Qualities, Processes & Meaningless Metrics’ as opposed to Reality, good Engineering, Passion & Productive work – is jinxed, like totally.

Anyway, I was then made to wait in the lounge for sometime, because I had to meet some final HR honcho to discuss the ‘package.’ I then thought, why not, let me see what the yahooligans offer etc.


A smart looking young lady came up to me said: I am taking you now to “our CHO – Chief Happiness Officer.” &^#@!~(

“Because we believe in ‘Employee Happiness!”

At that point, I decided that I didn’t need a job in Yahoo after all! Because, I would never be happy working alongside totally useless & frivolous people. I excused myself to that bewildered lady & said I am not anymore interested in your company.

And, walked out with a very happy feeling, though I had only enough money to sustain my family for the next 3 weeks or so.

Good riddance.

It was no surprise to me, when I learnt later that the company was destined to being reduced to a skeleton, ripped by the likes of Google, later.


Even now I hear from young folks off & on, about the assault of “Quality brigands’ (and ‘Woke scum’ now) on their outfits.

My heart does not go out for them, though.

Because, probably they should fight pitched battles with the scum-brigades that seek to wreck their outfits or they should be getting out and go trail-blazing on their own (& even die like a glorious meteor, in the process) instead of being a mediocre, whiny cog in a stupid machine, merely waiting for the ‘next month’s salary’ and so on and so forth.

Chasing after ‘Happiness’ & ‘Cowardly safety’ is oh so mediocre.



(fixed some typos/mishtakes 09:53 10/30/2022)

6 Responses to “kaizen & other assorted process improvement + quality enhancement management nonsense from japan, ‘happiness at work’ – musings”

  1. Tukkaram Singh Says:

    Sir Namaste,
    IMHO, this article is more human (like me) readable than your tweets.

    Request you to continue with more articles in English with same style.

    • Sir, thanks for the sweetness & that encouragement.

      And, for confirming the fact that the Tweets are not readable, I had suspected it all along. Even I have a tough time understanding them.

      Also, quite a few folks have complained that my blog style(!) is also godawful, and that I should try to reform myself. Fair enough.

      I think, I will write only books from now onwards.

      (just kidding)

      No. I think I should embark on a grand Decalogy.

      (psst… are you that person with whom I fought over zigbee protocol suite, way back in 2004 or thereabouts? you sound like him)

  2. NADU center Says:

    Thank Nature you didn’t join Yahoo
    The 80-20 rule works everywhere. When it moves towards 90-10, the collapse starts
    The curve depicting no of non Profesional hypocrites at the top positions will go parallel to Y axis and people with stuff will start leaving. Non core activities will gobble up the resources.When the tower topples, the tip sitters will jump to next tower with no dirt on their collars.
    Unfortunately there is no way to measure the brainless board room wasters. In war and peace,Tolstoy mocks at the war room talks.
    World moves by some unknown forces and crows sitting on the mast think they propel it

    • 🙏🏿 💪🏿

      I would say that, IT ‘sector’ has more than its fair ration of kaamchors & scumbags; I got out some 16+ years ago – but there seem to be no let up at all!

      Prolly it is on par with the ‘Entertainment Industry(!)’ MFs.


மேற்கண்ட பதிவு (அல்லது பின்னூட்டங்கள்) குறித்து (விருப்பமிருந்தால்) உரையாடலாமே...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s